The Church of England has responded to criticism of the sexualisation of infant students wearing the Islamic headscarf by encouraging its schools to continue setting “culturally and religiously sensitive” uniform policies.
Last week, it was reported that school inspectors will begin speaking to primary school girls wearing hijabs to ascertain why they are covering their hair, amidst concerns children as young as four are forced to cover by teachers and parents.
The Chief Inspector of Schools, Amanda Spielman, said the hijab “could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls” and should be questioned, as it is not traditionally worn until puberty.
She also explained that schools could also be in breach of equality laws if girls are required to wear religious clothing but boys are not.
However, the Church of England did not appear to share these concerns, seemingly justifying the garment in the “communities they serve”.
A spokesman from Church House, the headquarters of the Church of England, responded to Mrs. Spielman’s comments on Tuesday, telling the Church Times: “Research shows that there are many reasons why pupils wear the hijab in school.
“Our approach is to encourage local schools to set uniform policies having due regard to the cultural and religious sensitivities of the communities they serve, in balance with the well-being of their students.”
Hijab Girl in Children’s Book Slammed for ‘Sexualising Four-Year-Olds’https://t.co/DCHKqFk0jS
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The announcement that girls in hijabs will be questioned came after a recent survey of 800 primary school websites found that one fifth, including Church of England schools, listed the hijab as part of their uniform.
Mrs. Spielman then met with Muslim feminists and secular campaigners, who called for a hijab ban in taxpayer-funded primary schools and described allowing infants to wear it as part of school policy as an “affront” to gender equality.
In a letter to The Sunday Times, they accused the UK of having “an abysmal record” of protecting Muslim girls “who suffer under the pretext of protecting religious freedoms”, criticising the country’s responses to “so-called sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation and forced marriages”.